Modern Software Experience

2008-05-23

Heredis

version 10

Heredis is a French genealogy program by BSD Concept. Heredis is one of the few program available for both Windows and MacOS. The current MacOS version is X.3, the current Windows version is 10. The Windows version requires Windows XP or Vista.

download

You can download (téléchargez) a demo version if you provide a name and email address. That is what I did quite some time ago for an earlier version and I have not been spammed to death. I received a minimal amount of email, including the mail announcing this new version. You need to provide your details twice if you want to download both the Windows and MacOS variant.

French

The Heredis web site is in French. The Heredis web site does not provide a link, but there is an English language web site for Heredis. Alas, although the French web site is for both the MacOS and Windows variant, the English web site is for the MacOS variant only, and it still touts version X.2 as the new version, while the French site is now offering X.3.

Classic versus Pro

That is not all there is to it, though. The email I received, invited me to buy either the Classic or the Pro edition of Heredis. There is no difference in features, as there is between Legacy Family Tree Standard Edition and Deluxe Edition. The only difference is the maximum number of individuals you can edit. The Classic Edition allows editing up to 2500 individuals per file, the Pro edition has no limits.

This is not how it used be. Heredis used to have a Standard and Premium edition, with the Standard edition being free - just like Legacy. The current pricing structure is less attractive.

demo

My French is just enough to understand that the demo includes all functions, has no time limitations, but only allows editing of databases up to 50 individuals. I later discover that editing is not the only thing that becomes impossible once your databases passes that size.

installation

The download is some 55 MB. The installation program is in French, but if you have installed a few programs before, installation cannot possibly be a challenge. It suggest a default installation directory, and allows you to change it. It installs the Heredis desktop icon and an icon labeled Planète without asking, but once the install is done, it does ask you whether you want to start Heredis.

starting up

Every time you start Heredis you get a dialog that prompts you to choose between obtaining a license and continuing with the evaluation edition. The first time you choose (evaluation), Heredis shows a dialog that says it is configuring for your system.
Immediately after that, Heredis tries to access the network, without first putting up dialog telling you what is about to do. Denying the access does not cause any problems. If you do allow network access, and then Internet access, nothing seems to happen. Heredis does not show any news or even confirm that you have the latest version.

English?

The first thing I look for after starting Heredis is a preferences screen that allows me to change the user interface language from French to English. There seems to be no such option.

This is rather puzzling. There is an English version for Mac OS. The translation for the Windows and MacOS version should be practically the same, and Windows has great multi-language support.

What makes it more puzzling is that Heredis started as a Windows program. What makes yet more puzzling is that I am sure that Heredis for Windows used to be available in French, English and German. A brief look at the German pages suggests that BSD Concept stopped caring about the German market after releasing version 7.2, as that is what it still offers for download.

It seems that BSD Concept added English with Heredis version 6.1 back in 2001. In 2004, BSD Concept was still offering the Standard and Premium edition of Heredis 7.2 in English, but after the introduction of Heredis 8 in December of 2005, only the MacOS variant continued to be offered in English. I do not know why, but there no English interface now, just the French one.

user interface

Heredis has a fairly large menu, but it is well organised. Under the menu is a button bar with a fixed set of buttons.

Heredis’s opens with a workspace view. You can start a new database, open an existing one, or search your disks for Heredis databases. It also shows recently accessed databases (and for your convenience, the demo databases are shown as recently accessed). Think of it as one-dialog Getting Started Wizard without the dialog box. Although it looks different, and helps a new user to get start quickly, those few options are on the File menu as well.

By the way, the demo databases, the one for Louis IV and the other for Les Duchamps, are not the only two databases that Heredis comes with. There are files for famous Frenchmen such as Victor Hugo, Jean-Paul Sartre and Gustave Eiffel as well. Look through the Heredis directories to find these.

layout

There is a cutesy background, that is used throughout the program to fill up empty spaces. I find it to be distracting, and there seems be no option to turn it off or choose a background of your own.

Heredis has a three-column format. Both the left and right column can be collapsed to show only the centre view. Each column has multiple views you can switch between by clicking their tab. It is not an interface you’ll like instantly, but perhaps it grows on you.

It does not take me long to decide that the easiest way to find my way around the French user interface is to load some data into the program.

GEDCOM import

character encoding dialog

The GEDCOM import does not impress. When I try to import the 1MB GEDCOM, Heredis seems to start importing it just fine, but after fifteen seconds or so, it puts up a dialog box asking me to choose a character encoding. A drop down box allows me to choose between "Ansel", "Ms-Dos", "Macintosh", "Windows" and "UTF_8".

I will forgo commenting on the impression a genealogy program that has already reached version 10 makes when it does not capitalise ANSEL and MS-DOS correctly, and does not even spell UTF-8 right. I will also refrain from commenting on the use "Macintosh" and "Windows" to indicate character encodings, and move straight to the heart of the matter: that dialog does sense not make.

no sense

It makes sense to ask users what character encoding they want for their GEDCOM export, but it makes no sense to ask what character encoding they want to use for GEDCOM import. The encoding to use is specified in the GEDCOM header. The encoding to use is not a matter of choice, the program has to use that character encoding. Now, it is okay, comforting even, for an import to show some basic details, such as the character encoding, of the GEDCOM file it is importing. It makes absolutely no sense to ask the user to choose a character encoding. The program has to interpret the GEDCOM header and act accordingly, without bothering the user.

If BSD Concept wants to tout the doubtful ability to override the character set encoding as a feature (one that actually makes some sense if you have to import GEDCOM files created by Brother’s Keeper), they should this "Advanced import" a separate menu item. Bothering users with this during a normal GEDCOM import is annoying and can only lead to mistakes.

default

I’d love to say that the default choice offered on that dialog is the right one, that Heredis gets at least that right. It certainly seemed that way with the first file I tried; it showed "Windows" selected for an "ANSI" file. It also showed "Ansel" for an ANSEL GEDCOM I tried, but it showed "Windows" for an UTF-8 GEDCOM.

another dialog

The "guess the character encoding" dialog box is not the only dialog box that Heredis puts up during the import. After clicking to continue the import, the process all seems to be done after a total of hundred seconds. Heredis puts up a dialog box with the GEDCOM statistics under the line "L’import est terminé" (the import is finished). However, the import is not finished. When you click "Fermer" (Close), the import process continues. Why oh why is that dialog box there, and not at the end of the import process?

speed

Total import time for the 1 MB GEDCOM is 2 minutes and 8 seconds. That is less than 38 INDI per second. It is also just a tad slower than Family Tree Maker 2008.

import log

I had a very hard time locating the import log. As it turns out, my initial impression, that there was no import log, was correct for that case. Sometimes there is an one, sometimes there isn’t one.

I initially wondered whether Heredis reports any import issues at all. I created a small GEDCOM file with an erroneous header, invalid tags, and nonsensical dates. Heredis did not really complain about any of it; at least, it did not leave an import log for me study.
At the point where Heredis claims the import is done, the intermediate dialog box may say "Des erreurs se sont produites, voir le résumé" (Errors have occurred, see summary), but there is no summary in the dialog box, there is no "résumé" tab, there is no additional window, there is no import listing at all.
There really is no import listing . I checked the Heredis program directory, the data directory, the directory I imported from and the TEMP directory. If there was an import log, it was not in any obvious or even somewhat obvious place.

new versus existing

It took me about an hour of experimenting to discover what is going on. That dialog seems quite adamant that there is some overview of errors, so - I reasoned optimistically - it is just a matter of finding it. After multiple attempts, I managed to get Heredis to produce an import listing.
Weirdly, you do get a log file when you create a new database directly from a GEDCOM file, but do not get a log file when you import a GEDCOM file into an existing database.

After some further testing I discovered that Heredis actually makes the same log file in both cases. A temporary file with a name such as Tmp1464578046.log is present when the intermediary dialog box is shown. There are more temporary files, but this is about the log file. For some reason I don’t understand, the temporary file is renamed when you import into a new database but deleted when you import into an existing database. That seems broken program logic to me.

quality of import log

My quick erroneous GEDCOM test showed that Heredis does not report every error. Bad as that sounds, it is still true of practically every genealogy program. With Heredis, things are actually worse; Heredis reports massive amounts errors even when there are none.

Superficially, he import log seems to report those imaginary errors pretty well; It provides an error message, a line number, and the line itself. Problem is that the error messages are not very informative.

The import log ends with the import time. The time Heredis reports is the time elapsed up to the intermediate dialog box, not the total time, and That’s wrong, but it is nice to see that they list some time. Many vendors with slow GEDCOM import routines do not dare present their import time.
The statistics it shows in the dialog box are not repeated in the import log.

problems

Starting a new database and importing a GEDCOM seemed to work, but I could not save the database; Heredis actually keeps asking me whether I want to save the file every five or ten minutes, only to refuse to do so because it contains more than 50 people. Heredis does not even allow choosing the registration menu, that option is not available because the database contains more than 50 people....
Broken program logic like that does not build confidence in the product.

I tried creating a database and immediately saving it, but Heredis does not allow saving empty databases. You have to add something first. I did so, and imported the file again, only to find that once the import was done, none of the data seemed to be there. That happened just once, and it was all-or-nothing, but it is disconcerting to experience a seemingly successful import but no data.

the 1 MB GEDCOM import log

Once I had figured out how to get an import log, I imported the 1 MB GEDCOM again, and had a look at the resulting import log. It is full of messages like this: Erreur pour l'union : 0 @F1006@ FAM (ligne 59533). That message tells me there is a supposed error, which line it is on, and what family it is, but not what the supposed error is or why Heredis thinks it s wrong. This messages occurs 6616 times for 1700 FAM records.

It is also full of messages like this: Erreur lors de l'importation de l'individu : 0 @I1370@ INDI (ligne 16386). Again, that messages tells me there is a supposed error, which line it is on, and what family it is, but not what the supposed error is or why Heredis thinks it s wrong. This message occurs 6268 times for 4862 INDI records..

Weirdly, after importing the file, it looks fine despite all these ostensible errors. The log file led me to expect missing individuals or families, but that did not seem the case. Doing an export to verify the import was not possible though; the demo refuses not just save, but even export when there are more than 50 individuals in the database. Thus, it is impossible to evaluate the GEDCOM export quality and speed for large databases, and utterly impossible to round-trip your own data.

error messages

BSD Concept really needs to work on the quality of the error messages, messages "error in record" do not cut it. They also need to work on the quality of the GEDCOM import. There is nothing wrong with these lines, the error messages are erroneous. The error lies with Heredis, not the file.

Writing all those error messages slows the import down, so if BSD Concept fixed Heredis to not generate the erroneous errors, its performance would probably improve considerably, and no longer be just as bad as FTM2008.

100k INDI GEDCOM

slow

Heredis is one of those programs that makes import of the 100k INDI GEDCOM a test of patience. It took 5 minutes and 20 seconds for superfluous "guess the character encoding" dialog box to appear. It took 2 hours, 33 minutes and 35 seconds for the intermediate dialog that claims import completion to appear. Actually finish of the import was after 2 hours, 58 minutes and 32 seconds.

The Task Manager showed CPU usage hovering around 50 % during import, but I did not notice excessive memory consumption. The one thing I did notice when the import was done, was that he Heredis database it had created for the 38 MB GEDCOM file was a very reasonable 32 MB, but that Heredis had also generated a 40 MB import log - an import log larger than the GEDCOM file.

676.012 errors

A 40 MB log file is not a file you casually load into NotePad, WordPad or even Word, but one you view in a hex editor. I quickly browsed to the end, to find that Heredis claims an import time of 2h33m32s - very close to the 2h33m35s I measured for the import up to the intermediate dialog box. The small difference is easily explained by their stopwatch starting a bit late and stopping a bit early combined with the time needed to click the first dialog box. Apart from the fact that there is another import phase which takes another 25 minutes, the time seems accurate.

Some search & replace actions allowed me cut the file size down and get the following numbers at the same time:

Erreur pour l'union : 45.626 times
Erreur dans la source : 313.174 times
Erreur lors de l'importation de l'individu : 208.749 times
Erreur pour la date : 100.067 times
Erreur dans la structure du nom : 8.396 times

That makes for a total of 676.012 errors.

Heredis import errors

The 100k INDI GEDCOM is a PAF GEDCOM. It has a high conformance to the GEDCOM specification and it is the one GEDCOM dialect that many other programs read flawlessly. These error messages are nonsense. There aren’t 676.012 errors in that GEDCOM file, there 676.012 errors in the Heredis import.

GEDCOM import speed

The import speed for the 100k INDI GEDCOM is less than 10 INDI per second, and not much more that 3½ KB per second. That makes it barely faster than Family Tree Maker 2008.
The import speed would be considerably better if Heredis did not generate so many unwarranted error messages.

GEDCOM export

Because GEDCOM export is disabled for anything but toy-sized files, you cannot round-trip your data, but it is still possible to do some limited tests.
Heredis support exports to "Ansel", "Ansi", "Dos" and "Macintosh". Note that export to UTF-8 is missing and that Windows ANSI is called "Ansi" in the GEDCOM export dialog, while it is called "Windows" in the GEDCOM import dialog.
The lack of consistency on simple things will not only confuse a few users, it also disturbing to those with even a bit of programming knowledge and experience.

wrong header

Heredis writes a GEDCOM version 5.5 file. The header looks fine but for one issue. Heredis identifies itself, the source of the GEDCOM as "HEREDIS 10 PC", and the company as "BSD Concept ©". That copyright symbol is the problem. It looks fine if you export to Windows ANSI, but the GEDCOM specification clearly states that if you use more than ASCII in the GEDCOM header, you have to use ANSEL to do so. Now, I am not exactly thrilled by this demand, and think that the specification should either limit the header to ASCII or allow the header to use the character set it specifies (that does not make it impossible to parse the header, just a tiny bit trickier to do it right), but there it is. In the section that discusses the GEDCOM header, the specification states "The CHAR tag is required. All character codes greater than 0x7F must be converted to ANSEL.", so the Heredis header is wrong.

Now, the Windows ANSI code for the copyright symbol is A9 (169). The ANSEL code for the copyright symbol is C3 (195). When you look at an Heredis export to ANSEL in NotePad, it looks like "BSD Concept Ã" (that is an Latin Capital Letter A with a Tilde). The problem there is simply that NotePad does not support ANSEL, and interprets the file as Windows ANSI. Although it looks wrong in NotePad, the ANSEL header is right.

some remarks

I looked at just a few small files, but I noticed a few issues. Heredis supports several propriety tags and these start with an underscore as they should. Another thing you immediately notice is that the place names are strongly structured. When I entered "Amsterdam", the export became "Amsterdam,,,,,". The commas with nothing in between them indicate fields I did not fill in.

master place table

Amsterdam, France

When I entered "Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands" in the place field the program turned it into "Amsterdam- Noord-Holland- Netherlands". That is because I should not have done that, there are separate fields for the separate parts of a fully specified place name.
The program has a master place table. I find Heredis’s master place table with its modal pop-up dialog box awkward to use and I wonder about its performance in large databases. When I enter "Amsterdam" (city), "Noord-Holland" (province) and "Netherlands" (country) into the right fields, Heredis seems to erase it all. I initially guessed this behaviour has something to do with the database of French places that is in there, and the predictable failure to recognise anything French about that location - despite the fact that it briefly was French territory during Napoleon’s reign. Fact is, Heredis does not actually erase it, it is just something awkward in the user interface. Anyway, I managed to get the three part into three fields in the master place list.

Heredis then exports it as "PLAC Amsterdam,,,Noord-Holland,NETHERLANDS,". Note that the country name has been changed to be all capitals. That is an error. Also note the lack of a space after each comma and superfluous comma at the end. I consider that to be errors too.

franco-centric

The real problem with Heredis’ master place list is that is entirely Franco-centric, and expects several fields between the city and province. When I enter "Paris", the program automatically expands that to Paris, 75000, Paris, Île-de-France, France" and exports it as "PLAC Paris,75000,Paris,Île-de-France,FRANCE," (note the extra comma again).
I could easily add the municipality (Amsterdam), but what Heredis apparently expects me to enter in between the city and the municipality is a numeric city code. That is just not possible. We have postal codes, we don’t have city codes.

Besides, the export format is wrong. When I import the Heredis GEDCOM into PAF, it becomes "Paris,75000,Paris,Île-de-France,FRANCE,". That is not right, and it Heredis, not PAF, That’s at fault. The city codes are not part of the place name hierarchy, and no other program expects to have to deal with that. The export should be "PLAC Paris, Paris, Île-de-France, France".

sources and repositories

The way Heredis exports sources and repositories is broken. In a Heredis GEDCOM, sources do not link to a repository as they should. The GEDCOM does not list repositories and then link sources to them, but instead includes the repository as part of the source record. When you import that broken record into another program, information is lost. When you import a correct GEDCOM from another program into Heredis, it merges the source and repository into a single record, listing the repository name as the source tile.

Unicode

Heredis fails to recognise UTF-8 on import and does not support UTF-8 export. A quick cut & paste of some characters into Heredis confirmed my worst fear. Although it demands a Unicode-based operating system, Heredis does not support Unicode. A brief hex editor look at my database confirms that Heredis stores the data you enter as Windows ANSI. Heredis support only the 256 characters in Windows ANSI, and that limits its ability to import either UTF-8 or ANSEL.

multimedia

Heredis has good multimedia support. Heredis makes it very easy to include graphics. Just click a button and use the File Open dialog box to choose and add an image. Click again to add another, and Heredis shows forward and backward buttons to scroll through the image list you just created. There are some simple image management tools too. You can not just add titles and mark an image as private, but also browse all images added to the database.

reports & charts

reports

Heredis has reasonable reporting capabilities. There is a wide variety of reports, and you set some options such as font and colours coding of genders. The reports are generated in RTF. Perhaps I missed it, but there seems to be no option to create an index. Like PAF, Heredis will also print many lists.

charts

What probably attracts a lot of users to Heredis in the first is its excellent support for graphical output. It support various graphical reports, not just pedigree and descendants reports, but also hourglass and a fan chart. Its fair to say that Heredis includes full charting capabilities.

Each reports offers multiple styles, and allows you to interactively adjust the graphical display. Every new version of Heredis offers a few new styles. Heredis version 10 includes all the styles included with version 9, 8 and 7 as well.
Many genealogy programs that support graphical displays, such as GenoPro, fail miserably when are asked to display anything but a toy-sized tree. This feature is definitely something that needs to be evaluated with at least a small database of a few thousand individuals. That BSD Concept does not dare allow you to try before you buy is a red flag.

There are quite a few designs suitable for framing. There is little to adjust about these. Heredis allows saving to both PDF and JPG, but does not allow setting the resolution of the image.

web site

Heredis allows you to generate a web site. It has a nice interactive dialog that allows to choose a style and background and immediately shows what that combination would look like. There are a few more options, like setting a title, but it is all easy to understand.
The only problem I noticed is that Heredis seems to hang after completing the creation of your website. There is a button to view the results in a browser, but it does not work. There is a button to Cancel the (already finished) operation, but it does not work either. Every time I ask Heredis to create a web site, I end up killing Heredis from the Task Manager.

The web sites that Heredis generates do not validate. It is very old-style HTML. The tags are all upper-case instead of lowercase, as they should, and there is no proper header, it does not use CSS, and relies on JavaScript for the menu. If you keep JavaScript disabled, the home page shows neither an menu nor the admission that it demands JavaScript, it is simply impossible to navigate anywhere.
The technical quality of the web site output is very low. Heredis’s web site output is cleaner than that of TMG, but that is damning with faint praise indeed.

Apart from allowing styles and background, Heredis offers just one look. I do not get enthusiastic about it, but I do not hate it either. The one thing that did catch my eye is the 3D menu item. Sadly, that menu item is there even you do not opt to generate a 3D tree. When you do opt to generate a 3D tree, Heredis generates an Adobe Shockwave file. I have no idea how well that works for a large file. For the small trees I created the output is not really 3D, but just a two-dimensional pedigree chart rendered with 3D blocks. It is still fun to play with for a few seconds.

features

Heredis has many good features, including support for not just the Julian and Gregorian Calendar, but the French Republican calendar and Hebrew Calendar as well. You can not just create reports and charts, but an interactive CD-ROM as well. One of the tabs in the right column shows a timeline. You can publish your data directly to the Planète Généalogie site from what seems like within the Heredis program. Heredis actually starts a separate program with a slightly different but highly similar look.

technology

Heredis appears to have been written in C++ and compiled with CodeGear C++ Builder, use CodeGear’s Visual Components Library (VCL) and the Dinkumware Standard Template Library (STL) provided with CodeGear C++ Builder, and rely on the cross-platform public domain SQLite database engine for database access.

conclusion

Classic mistake

I understand smaller limits on a demo edition, but I don’t like the artificial limit of 2500 individuals per file of the Classic Edition. Once you reach it, it is nothing but a paid demo edition for the Pro edition - and the Pro edition does not come cheap.

The existence of a Mac variant is nice, but why only the Mac variant is available in English remains unexplained.

GEDCOM import

The GEDCOM import does not impress. The import routine expects you to guess the character set, and its default choice it provides is not reliable. Presented with an UTF-8 GEDCOM, it defaults to "Windows". The import log is automatically erased if you import a GEDCOM file into an existing database. The import log provides error, line number and line, but its error messages are close to "error in this record" and therefore close to useless. The GEDCOM import itself needs some work to, cause it constantly complains about lines that are perfectly fine.

GEDCOM export

The GEDCOM export is problematic. UTF-8 is not supported. Export to anything but ANSEL gets a wrong GEDCOM header.

Place names are highly structured, but have a comma too much, no space after the comma, capitalise the country name and insert a city code between the city and the municipality. All this makes it unlikely that another genealogy program will import a Heredis GEDCOM correctly.

charting program

The web site generation is poor, but the reports and charting capabilities seem good - at least for small databases. Heredis is marketed as a genealogical program with good charting capabilities, but you easily get the impression that it is a charting program with limited edit, import and export capability.

features without foundation

Heredis’s speed does not impress, but although BSD Concept seems afraid to you let experience Heredis performance with anything but toy-sized databases, lack of performance isn’t its biggest problem.

Heredis does not support Unicode. It is not a modern Unicode-based Windows program, but a 1990s codepage-based design that has not been upgraded since. All it really supports is Windows ANSI, and that implies that it cannot fully support ANSEL either. Heredis is not very stable or reliable either; I experienced hanging on export to web, and an import that failed to import, and both happened within hours of downloading it.

On top of that, Heredis’s support for sources and repositories is so broken that Heredis is unusable for anyone who cares about registering their sources. The defective GEDCOM import and export reflects this broken design, and oh, all place names are messed up as well.

Heredis does not lack features, but it does lack a solid foundation. It is an overpriced theme-park castle build on quicksand, and you are sure to loose something trying to get in or out. That’s disillusioning.

GEDCOM import speed

file1 MB GEDCOM100k INDI GEDCOM
time2m082h58m32s
time in seconds128 10.712
INDI per second37,989,34
bytes per second8.249,18 3.622,05

product details

propertyvalue
productHeredis
version10
organisationBSD Concept
websiteHeredis (French)
priceClassic: € 39,90
Pro: €124,90
requirementWindows XP or better
noteno English
VerdictCastle on quicksand
Ratingdisillusioning

links

related

Heredis

technology